The 12 Greatest Fears Workers Feel About Retirement

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Worried middle-aged woman
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Thinking about retirement can be fun, but also a bit scary. After all, who doesn’t worry about growing older while trying to finance day-to-day life without a steady paycheck?

Some fears loom larger than others. More than 5,800 adults recently revealed their biggest retirement worries as part of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies 22nd annual retirement survey of workers.

Following are the fears that haunt their visions of retirement.

12. Inability to retire on my own terms

Laid-off senior worker
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 13%

Age discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Alas, it also is a fact of life.

A joint analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute estimates that 56% of workers experience at least one involuntary job loss after age 50. Just 1 in 10 of these workers who are laid off go on to find a job that paid as much as their previous position.

If you are an older worker looking for a new job, check out “The 20 Most Popular Jobs for Seniors.”

11. Finding meaningful ways to spend time

Woman with box of clothing to donate
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 20%

Many of us dream of a retirement full of endless rounds of golf or weekend getaways. But having too much time on your hands with nothing to do is not a recipe for happiness.

Volunteering is a great way to add meaning to retirement. But if you plan to volunteer in your golden years, get started now. As we point out in “12 Hard Truths About Retirement”:

“Among people who did not volunteer during their working years, just one-third finally begin volunteering during retirement.”

10. Affordable housing

home costs exceeding savings
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 22%

A decade or so ago, homes were selling for bargain prices, thanks to the bursting of the real estate bubble that triggered the Great Recession. Since then, home prices have exploded, leaving today’s workers clearly worried about future costs.

Although you cannot control housing prices, you can lower your costs significantly by getting the right home loan. So, stop by the Money Talks News Solutions Center and search for a great mortgage rate.

9. Lack of access to adequate, affordable health care

Home health aide
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 24%

As a general rule, the older we get, the more health care services become a part of our lives. The cost of health care seems to soar ever higher, but one way to tame those costs is to open a health savings account.

You need to meet certain requirements to qualify for an HSA, but if you are eligible, this type of account offers some of the most impressive tax advantages in the entire IRS code.

8. Feeling isolated and alone

Sad, middle-aged woman
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 26%

Senior life can be lonely. Without the camaraderie of the workplace, some people find themselves alone far more often than they would like. As we have reported, this is especially a problem for single men.

But by and large, retirement is what you make it. So focus on creating connections with friends and family now to create a happy retirement in the future.

7. Losing my independence

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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 27%

Few things frighten older adults more than the thought of being dependent on others. Physical ailments and diseases like dementia quickly can rob us of our ability to care for ourselves.

This is a reality of retirement for millions, especially those who live a long life. All we can do is prepare — mentally and financially — for the possibility.

6. Cognitive decline

Senior with dementia
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 29%

One of life’s great fears is the worry that, someday, our ability to think may decline. But this is simply another of life’s realities, as much as we wish it weren’t so.

Ultimately, there is no sure way to prevent cognitive decline like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers have suggested a handful of things you can do to lower your risk. For more, check out:

4. Inability to meet my family’s basic financial needs (tie)

An old man holding an empty wallet
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 30%

Getting older does not mean the end of worries about taking care of loved ones. However, it can be difficult to provide financially for others when you no longer have a regular income.

Investing wisely during your working years can help you build a large nest egg that will help you support loved ones during retirement.

Building a solid estate plan also allows you to care for your family after you are gone. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has some thoughts on the topic in his podcast “Estate Planning Tips and Tricks.”

4. Possible long-term care costs (tie)

Man with dementia
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 30%

Standard retirement costs cause enough worry, but the price of long-term care sends financial anxiety to a whole new level.

If you are ready to face this sobering part of senior life head-on, check out “Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

3. Outliving my money

Senior woman worried about money
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 35%

Most of us worry about running out of money before we run out of life, as the old saying goes. So it’s no surprise to see this fear top the list, although it has slipped a couple of places from its No. 1 finish in 2021.

As a group, American workers have saved notoriously little for retirement. And for many of us, time is running short if we hope to build a decent-sized nest egg.

Instead of panicking, enroll in the Money Talks News retirement course The Only Retirement Guide You'll Ever Need.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson is your guide for the online course — a 14-week boot camp intended for those who are 45 or older. It can teach you everything from Social Security secrets to how to time your retirement.

1. Social Security reduction or elimination (tie)

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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 36%

It is a widely reported fact that Social Security’s finances are in trouble. All that publicity likely contributes to the level of fear today’s workers feel about the government-run program’s future.

Is there still time to repair things? Social Security expert Jeff Miller weighed in with his opinion last summer in “Can Congress Still Fix Social Security?

1. Declining health that requires long-term care (tie)

Senior with dementia doing occupational therapy
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Respondents who cite this as a top retirement fear: 36%

If you’re paying close attention, you’ve noticed a theme on this list. Workers are quite worried about their long-term physical and mental health and what a decline in one — or both — might mean for their retirement years.